INFORMATION ABOUT FOXTAIL LILY…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by Patrick Quinn-Graham The foxtail lily, or desert candle (E. elwesii), is native to Turkestan. Although the foxtail lily belongs to the genus Eremurus, which is a member of the lily family, it is a rather unusual bulbous plant. In fact, the foxtail lily’s roots are more like that of most other perennials, spreading or fanning out in all directions rather than from one single bulb or tuber. These tuberous roots grow in clumps, eventually producing bristly, succulent leaves that are topped with tapered spikes of white flowers in late spring.
Foxtail lilies make stunning garden plants, reaching heights of 6-7 feet tall. When in bloom, foxtail lilies are exquisite springtime show-stoppers. Its genus name means ‘tall’ and though there are a dozen or so species existing, they are not often used in gardens. Instead, species of foxtail lilies are often more popular with professional growers and used as cut flowers. These bottlebrush-shaped flower spikes can last up to several weeks when cut. Regardless of their popularity with professionals, however, these plants do make lovely additions in a home garden environment as well. Use them as accents in the back of mixed beds or borders.
The foxtail lily enjoys full sun in well-drained, fertile or sandy soil enriched with compost. However, this plant will grow well in a wide range of soil types provided there is adequate drainage. The foxtail lily dislikes drought; therefore, t hey shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. Good drainage is especially important in the winter time. Plant the tuberous roots in the fall approximately 5-6 inches deep. For best results, make a wide, shallow hole. Take extreme care when planting this root as it does not like being disturbed. The tuberous roots are quite brittles and should be handled carefully.
You may want to mulch your foxtail lily with straw or other suitable material, especially during the first few winters to protect its tender tubers. Once the plant is established, it becomes quite hardy. Foxtail lilies can be lifted once overcrowding has occurred. Carefully divide and replant it elsewhere.
The 7-foot tall soft-pink spikes of E. robustus are quite stunning. Native of Turkestan Because of its mammoth height, this foxtail lily may require staking, especially in wind-prone sites. This species has shorter hybrids available in a wider range of colors as well – from salmons and pinks to yellows and oranges.
Another species of foxtail lily includes E. bungei. This is one of the smallest of the species, only 2-3 feet tall. This plant is native to Turkestan as well as Afghanistan with beautiful wand-like spikes of yellow flowers.
E. stenophyllus produces spikes of yellow or golden yellow blossoms.
E. himalaicus, a native of the Himalayas, reaches 4-8 feet tall and has beautiful white flowers hovering over medium green foliage.
Foxtail lilies and related species usually do not suffer from pest problems or disease; however, slugs and snails may be a source of trouble for young, newly grown plants.